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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

Maurice Ferre's election predictions

Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre says he has the U.S. Senate race on lock -- if he scores a fistful of newspaper endorsements, rallies Hispanic voters and then somehow beats Charlie Crist in the general election.

Ferre, who has raised barely enough campaign dollars to put down a deposit on a new car, quickly sized up his rivals during a St. Petersburg Times editorial board interview Thursday morning, despite opening his interview with, "I don't want to talk about my opponents."

Kendrick Meek? "He cannot win an election in the state of Florida... The state of Florida has a long history of electing middle-of-the-road Democrats."

Marco Rubio? "For sure, I can beat Marco Rubio. I have no doubts I can beat Marco Rubio."

Charlie Crist? "Charlie Crist is going to be tough."

He predicted billionaire Jeff Greene ("terrible speaker" Ferre gushed) would trump Meek because of money and that Crist would be the man to beat in the general election.

During the interview, Ferre portrayed himself as a Paul Krugman Democrat willing to raise the Social Security age and spend public dollars to create new jobs.

He boasted of his good reputation: "In the 12 years I was mayor there were no indictments."

He said he supported President Barack Obama's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011, but bashed the war.

"These are people who are really in medieval times," he said.

He conceded his would be a longshot win, but said he could get there if could pull together 350,000 votes.

"It's going to be a tight race, but you know what, I am going to be in there," he said. "Can I win? I don't know. I think I can get -- I am pretty sure I am going to get close to 300,000 votes. I am pretty sure of that. Can I get 350,000? We'll see. I am going to try."

Posted by Cristina Silva at 07:54:23 PM on July 8, 2010

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State Rep. Mike Weinstein busts a move

Check out this ad for state Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville. The song appeared on radio but the video never went on TV because his opponents, cowed into artistic submission, did not qualify.

Weinstein is proud of it anyway and sent it to fellow House members. The star/producer is his son, who goes by the stage name Scott Leigh. "I said, 'I want a commercial that has a positive message but is also very different, unique, catchy.' We weren't trying to create a masterpiece."

The quirky vid has gotten 10,345 hits on YouTube and generated attention from CBS and Wonkette, among other places. Mike, Mike, Mike ... Weinstein.

Posted by Alex Leary at 06:02:34 PM on July 8, 2010

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Rich Heffley, Charlie Crist campaign cleared in FEC complaint

Remember back in simpler times when Charlie Crist was a Republican, none of us had heard of Rick Scott or Jeff Greene, and Delmar Johnson wasn't immitating Frank Serpico? Remember how Rich Heffley, The People's Consultant, was busted helping create an anti-Marco Rubio Web site that drew an FEC complaint against him alleging illegal coordination between Heffley, the Crist campaign, and the Florida GOP?

Well, as Heffley predicted, that complaint went nowhere. Here's what the FEC concluded:

The Commission found no reason to believe the respondents violated the Act because the Commission's regulations provide that volunteer internet activities by an individual or group of individuals, whether acting individually or in coordination with a candidate or committee, do not require disclaimers and do not constitute contributions.

Posted by Adam Smith at 05:21:46 PM on July 8, 2010

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Michelle Obama will survey oil damage in Panama City

First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Panama City on Monday to meet with members of the community and discuss the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

The White House said Mrs. Obama will visit with officials and local leaders then speak at a community event in the early evening. We'll provide more detail when it comes.

Posted by Alex Leary at 04:19:39 PM on July 8, 2010

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Former Jim Webb strategist joining Jeff Greene's campaign

Look for Jessica Van Denberg, a top Democratic strategist whose clients in recent years have included Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (and Bob Graham's Iowa presidential effort in 2004), to join the Jeff Greene U.S. Senate campaign as a senior adviser.

The campaign is staffing up field folks across the state, and also recently added former St. Petersburg City Council member Jay Lasita to the campaign.

Posted by Adam Smith at 03:02:45 PM on July 8, 2010

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Mike Haridopolos says judge didn't understand redistricting issues

Future Senate President Mike Haridopolos sent out this statement in reaction to a judge's decision to strike Amendment 7 from the ballot:

Even with seven months of attempts, the sponsors of amendments 5 and 6 failed to explain the workable application of their amendments or how the amendments would protect minority representation. Judge Shelfer's inability to understand the process of redistricting after only looking at it for three days is convincing proof that amendments 5 and 6 are fatally flawed.

Amendment 7 was co-authored by Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Gary Siplin and Minority Leader Senator Al Lawson. I personally supported their efforts because I am not willing to stand idly by and allow minority representation to diminish.

I fully expect for Judge Shelfer's standards to be applied to Amendment 5 and 6 and am certain that if that is done, Amendments 5 and 6 will be removed from the ballot."

Posted by Marc Caputo at 01:59:11 PM on July 8, 2010

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Crist calls special session to ban offshore drilling

Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he's calling a special session of the Legislature in less than two weeks and will ask lawmakers to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to ban offshore oil drilling. His proclamation sets the session dates as July 20-23.

At a hastily-called news conference, Crist said the session would be devoted to one issue -- "a rifle shot," he called it -- to give the voters of Florida a say on drilling. But in doing so, he violated a cardinal rule of Tallahassee politics by calling for a special session without a consensus with legislative leaders.

"I feel a compelling duty to protect Florida," Crist told reporters. "And I'm going to be governor for about six more months, and I think I wouldn't be doing my duty as governor if I did not call for this special session."

Crist noted that the deadline is Aug. 4 for a proposed amendment to make it to the Nov. 2 ballot. He said the Senate sponsor of the proposed drilling ban will be Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, but no House sponsor has been selected. His announcement sets up a clash with the House, where Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, has publicly accused Crist of grandstanding on drilling.

Cretul also has said drilling is already banned by state law, but Crist noted that House leaders tried in 2009 to allow drilling three miles off the coast (the Senate killed the bill).

"Politics has nothing to do with this," Crist said. "This has everything to do with doing what's right for a place that I love. I love Florida." The press event ended abruptly with Crist saying he did not know how House leaders would react because they have repeatedly refused to return his phone calls.

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 01:28:13 PM on July 8, 2010

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Fair Districts chairwoman applauds Amendment 7 ruling

Ellen Freidin, chairwoman of the two citizen Fair Districts amendments, was predictably giddy at Judge Jim Shelfer's decision to throw the Legislature's Amendment 7 off the ballot.

"We have always been confident that any court would look at this and see it for exactly what it is," she said. "It's an attempt to fool the voters, and as the judge said, to hide the ball."

Freidin criticized the Legislature's proposed standards as "non requirements" that would be given equal or a higher priority than those spelled out in the Fair Districts amendments. She said the proposed standards would allow wide discretion in crafting districts.

"It gives the Legislature free reign to continue drawing districts for their own political purposes," she said.

Posted by Lee Logan at 12:10:53 PM on July 8, 2010

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Court declares Legislature's redistricting amendment misleading

The Legislature's decision to counter the Fair Districts Florida redistricting amendments with its own was declared misleading by Judge James Shelfer, who tossed it off the ballot.

His ruling is sure to be appealed.

Shelfer said it took him three days to understand the meaning of Amendment 7 and that he couldn't foresee how an average voter would grasp its description during a few minutes in the voting booth.

That's quite a blow to future Senate President Mike Haridopolos and the Republicans in the Legislature who portrayed Amendment 7 as a model of clarity. They said it was needed to "clarify" two other amendments, 5 and 6, placed on the ballot by a group called Fair Districts. Haridopolos, who co-sponsored Amendment 7 with Democrat Gary Siplin, said the Fair Districts amendments could harm minority voting rights. Florida Congressional leaders, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Corrine Brown agree and are challenging Fair Districts.

But Fair Districts backers say Amendments 5 and 6 are simply intended to make it tougher for lawmakers to favor incumbents and political parties when they draw congressional and legislative districts.

The Legislature's proposal was drafted in the waning days of session and changed at least once. It wasn't the clearest of amendments, giving the NAACP and other backers of Fair Districts fertile ground to argue it was misleading.

"The Legislature's amendment was gobbledygook," said Ron Meyer, one of the NAACP lawyers.

Shelfer essentially agreed, saying the way Amendment 7 was written could undo the Fair Districts Amendments and could make it easier for legislative and congressional districts to be drawn without being continguous. So one politician could represent two different areas of the state, say Jacksonville and Okaloosa County.

Posted by Marc Caputo at 11:24:59 AM on July 8, 2010

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Democrat Jeff Greene's new TV ad

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene taps his personal wealth again for another TV commercial, this one playing off his fairly vague plan to create jobs in Florida. Yesterday, he said he'll blanket the state with mailers dealing with the same issue.

Posted by Alex Leary at 11:24:49 AM on July 8, 2010

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Birds rescued from gulf oil spill get a sendoff from Gov. Charlie Crist

As photo-ops go, they don't get much better than this: Gov. Charlie Crist went to the shores of tranquil Lake Talquin in Gadsden County Thursday morning to help release a pair of pied-billed grebes that had been saturated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

"Wow, this is beautiful!" Crist said as he surveyed the calm waters reflecting a bright morning sun. He donned a pair of blue rubber gloves and, with the aid of a couple of wildlife officers, helped open a cardboard box and set one of the birds free. The small diving birds feed on crustaceans and small fish. One was found on Perdido Key and the other at Gulf Breeze in the western Panhandle.

"It's an amazing thing to witness," Crist said, "having the opportunity to bring these birds back to their natural habitat and a chance to get their life going on again. It's kind of reflective of Florida, I guess." The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission director, Nick Wiley, said another 50 oil-soaked birds are "in rehab" and will be released when they're ready.

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 11:18:05 AM on July 8, 2010

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How Kendrick Meek plans to win the Senate race

Kendrick Meek reported today that he raised another $1 million in the last quarter and his campaign sent out one of those "internal strategy memos" that make the case for how well positioned it is. It's a decent argument even if campaign manager Abe Dyk makes some questionable assumptions about who will turn out more in an off-year, how much Meek can consolidate Democrats, and how he can beat a billionaire far outspending him. Here's the full memo and here's an excerpt:

... Kendrick's path to victory is clear. In 2006,Democrat Jim Davis ran against Charlie Crist for governor and received 45 percent of the vote. No one who voted for Davis will vote for Rubio, and it is unrealistic that more than 15 percent of Davis voters would vote for Crist this time - that gives Kendrick 38.25 percent of the vote, enough to win. By contrast, Democrats had a registration disadvantage in voter registration against Republicans in 2006. This year, Democrats have a net 6 percent advantage versus Republicans, growth that will further bolster Kendrick's final vote share. Looked at another way, Kendrick, the only Democrat in the race, can win with only Democrats since they make up 42 percent of the electorate. By consolidating Democratic support in November, Kendrick Meek will be able to win a plurality of votes against two lifelong Republicans. This fall, Floridians will have a real choice. Will they pick the tea party candidate, the self-?interested candidate, or a true Democrat who will fight for middle-?class Florida families?

Posted by Adam Smith at 10:23:15 AM on July 8, 2010

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BFFs Jeff Greene and Lindsay Lohan

If Jeff Greene is sworn in as Florida's junior senator, could we see Lindsay Lohan at the ceremony? She ought to be out of jail by then, and she and the billionaire Democratic candidate apparently are pals. Here are pictures of them together in St. Barts on New Year's Eve.

Posted by Adam Smith at 09:57:53 AM on July 8, 2010

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Rasmussen poll: Rubio 36 percent, Crist 34, Meek 15

Rasmussen robo poll (MoE +/-4.5%): The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Florida finds the two candidates neck-and-neck again this month, with Rubio earning 36 percent support and Crist, the state's current Republican governor, capturing 34 percent of the vote. Prospective Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek remains a distant third with 15 percent. Fourteen percent (14%) of the state's voters remain undecided.

... If Meek's Democratic Primary challenger, billionaire real estate Jeff Greene, is their opponent, Rubio gets 37 percent of the vote to Crist's 33 percent. Greene earns 18 percent, while 12 percent remain undecided. Crist's support is down eight points from the previous survey, while Greene is up five.

... Regardless of which Democrat is in the race, Rubio carries roughly 60 percent of the GOP vote, while Crist earns 29 percent support from voters in his former party. It will be interesting to see if Crist can hang on to this level of support from Republicans as the campaign wears on. Democrats are narrowly divided between Crist and the candidate from their own party. Voters not affiliated with either party give a slight edge to Crist. But nearly one-out-of-five Democrats and unaffiliateds remain undecided.

Posted by Adam Smith at 09:37:51 AM on July 8, 2010

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Video: Bill McCollum's no-details press conference

Governor candidate and Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum touted his jobs plan on Tuesday, promising it will lead to 500,000 new jobs. McCollum didn't want to stray past his talking points.

VIDEO

Posted by Marc Caputo at 06:30:00 AM on July 8, 2010

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